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Using gray water is similar to buying good used clothing. You want the gently used type. By gently used, it’s the water that was used for showering or bathing, washing clothing or doing dishes—not the water from the toilet. It may have a bit of debris, such as hair, dirt, grease and some household cleaner, but won’t have the fecal bacteria you’d have in toilet water.
Whether you’re in a SHTF survival mode or simply trying to conserve water, using gray water for watering plants can extend your water supply without wasting any water in the process. Creating an irrigation system to take the gray water from the house to the garden will make it easier, particularly if you’re in a conservation mode, rather than a survival one. You don’t want to use a lot of water with salts, boron or chlorine bleach. You also want the water to go into the soil and not touch edible parts of the plants, ideally. The food debris and other waste in the water can become nutrients for the plants. For those more attune to conservation, when gray water goes into lakes, it actually acts like a source of pollution.
A gravity fed drip system allows you to direct the gray water to the precise area where you want it, without wasting any along the journey. In a dry area or over a particularly dry summer, the gray water system can help your plants survive and provide food for you after harvest. With a system in place, you won’t have to expend the energy to take buckets of water to the garden or use any of your valuable drinking water.
Unlike drinking water, which is fresh, gray water uses different types of guidelines. Storing gray water longer than 24 hours causes it to develop an odor. Keep personal contact to gray water to a minimum. While, most likely, you won’t get any pathogens from it, it still could be contaminated. Don’t allow animals to drink it either.
If you are concerned about chemical or soaps in your gray water, there are ways to set it up so not all of your used water from say the shower is funneled into your gray water system. You can set it up so just the water used for warming up the water or the water you use in the shower, except for when soaping up/shampooing is in your gray water system and the rest goes into your septic or sewer system. It takes a bit more effort to set it up this way, but the benefits make the extra time and energy worth it.
Don’t allow the gray water, or any water for that matter to pool up or drain off. Adjust your drip irrigation system so it doesn’t. Pooling water of any kind is a veritable breeding area for mosquitoes. When you’re creating a system, keep it simple. Don’t add pumps or anything that uses more energy, whether you’re creating it for water conservation or survival. People attempting to conserve resources will use more energy that affects the environment and those in a SHTF situation won’t have access to electricity. When using the gray water for plant irrigation, match it with the needs of the plants.